The launch of ‘Honour and Fidelity’, the book penned by Capt Amarinder Singh, former Punjab chief minister and deputy leader of Congress in Lok Sabha, on the contribution of Indian soldiers to World War-I, in Chandigarh on Saturday had a whiff of both, military history and contemporary politics.
The launch was also a show of strength for Amarinder with 31 Congress MLAs in attendance, including those who have not openly shown their allegiance to him or to his successor, Partap Singh Bajwa.
It also brought military history lovers together. Among the prominent invitees occupying the front row was People’s Party of Punjab president Manpreet Badal, who even asked the Captain a couple of questions during the interaction session. When asked, Manpreet, who had closed ranks with Bajwa during the Bathinda Lok Sabha elections and later the Talwandi Sabo bypoll, said there was no politics in his attending the book launch. “I am here as a lover of military history. I too share the same passion,” he said while making a hurried exit after the formal session ended saying, “People will read politics in it if I stay here any longer.”
While his estranged nephew was in attendance, it was chief minister Parkash Singh Badal who came in for some rare praise from Amarinder. Answering Manpreet’s query on why many Punjabi youth were not opting for military services, Amarinder lauded chief minister Parkash Singh Badal for opening an institute for training youth for the National Defence Academy and other such academies. “I wish I had done so when I was the CM. Badal has done a good thing by encouraging the youth to join defence forces,” Amarinder said.
But the detractors of Amarinder had their own take. “He says he cannot attend Parliament owing to family reasons. But he can hold a book launch. It speaks volumes on his devotion for the party which is battling the Modi government in the Lok Sabha every day,” an MLA said, requesting anonymity.
But for Amarinder, it was not the day he wanted to discuss politics. He said the Congress was doing well as opposition in Parliament and the Modi government was only hijacking the Congress schemes. He ducked a query on the Punjab Congress, saying he had told Congress president Sonia Gandhi that he would write a book if she gives him the sack (from presidency of Punjab Congress).
But he did have some strong words for “trial by media”. Answering another query, he said, “The media is behind the fear psychosis in the defence ministry officials. Nobody wants to take decisions on buying arms and equipment as the media comes after them,” he added.